Reaching into the Culture with Art

Last spring I wrote the following statement in my article, Expressing My Faith with Paint (Mar/Apr ’06):

It is my hope that the Lord will open the door for native artists to see them (my art works) and be inspired to express their faith using their own indigenous Guatemalan/Mayan style.  What a God we have, who can express Himself in different art styles influenced by each culture! 

My desire was that some day an artist in Guatemala would see my work as an expression of my faith influenced by the Mayan art style.  But God had a greater vision than I had!  My vision was too small—how like us, not to ask or desire large enough.  God’s plan came about in the summer of 2006.  The Lord opened the door through a church in Minnesota which has been working in Guatemala through our short-term groups ministry now for 15 years.  For their global worker conference, they desired to have a gallery of Christian artists and artisans from the Lake Atitlan Area.

This past summer I was given the great opportunity to go out and teach the artists and artisans about expressing their faith in creative, original ways.  The challenge was that none of the artists had ever expressed their faith in their work, and most of them only copied what others had already painted or made.  I began by introducing the greatest artist of all time—Jesus—and then helped them to see that creativity is part of being made in the image of God.  With the help of my translator and teammate Betty Merida, I taught them:

  • how to be creative and original
  • ways to be creative and original
  • what sorts of things could inspire them to express their faith, such as verses, Bible stories, etc., and
  • examples of artists from different parts of the world who expressed their faith through their art.

They each then had time to work out an idea or two with me and with Sula Crabb ( fellow teammate who is an artist/artisan ).

We were all thrilled to see the sketches each of the 35 students developed!  It was exciting to see them use symbols of faith they had not used before with the Mayan influence or with sceneries from the Lake area.  It was a miracle of the stretching of new areas of creativity.  Again, the Lord did more then I expected in this first time of presenting these ideas!  I believe He prepared their hearts to be open to going in different directions than they had for centuries.

Included in the class were two famous artists from the area, Manuel and Diego.  They could easily have taught some of the lessons, instead of me.  Their grateful hearts and learner attitudes were a blessing and encouragement to me as they excitedly drew up examples of paintings showing their faith.  What a positive influence and encouragement they were to the others.  Their example helped encourage the others to develop their own original painting or craft expressing their faith.  I am grateful the Lord brought them to be part of the session!

I want to encourage those of you who are creative in any area—music, drama, writing, etc.—to help those in your culture express their faith from their cultural view.  I have included my lesson plan for you to use and edit (especially for another art form) as an encouragement to you, so that you can be equipped to venture into this kind of ministry.

Our Father has put this desire in my heart for many years now, and I want to thank Him for giving me the opportunity to fill it beyond my expectations.  I can testify that our Lord works far greater than we can, when we are a servant willing to be used as He directs.

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